The Knight Foundation has announced six winners of the first round of this year's Knight News Challenge. Past winners have been ambitious projects, broad in scope, many of them as part of major parent organizations in journalism. But at least in Round One, this year's crop proposes fairly obvious ideas. It's surprising that some of these haven't been built already. Why does the Knight Foundation have to fund something as basic as a browsable map for live videos? There's one clear answer: News organizations - for whatever reason - haven't built them themselves.
This year, the foundation is holding three challenges to spur journalistic innovation in different areas. The first round, focused on networks, will award $1.37 million amongst six projects built on top of existing networks like Ustream and Twitter.
At this point in the ongoing disruption of the news business, existing networks have become entrenched as the places to distribute information. Twitter, Facebook, Ustream and YouTube not only have the critical mass of users, they also have the best mechanisms for rapidly circulating new, popular and trending content, whatever it might be.
That's why the first round of the Knight News Challenge focuses on tools that support the delivery of news and critical information to those networks in engaging ways.
Here are the winners of Round One, announced today at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference:
Behavio is building a software development kit for Android to enable applications to take fuller advantage of the blanket of real-world data created by smartphones. Behavio apps will make use of phone sensors to monitor movement, behavior and surroundings. They can track communication via the phone as well as environmental factors like sound, light and motion.
Behavio wants to leverage the existing network of Android users to allow journalists and others to notice trends in community data, as well as for anyone to explore their own personal data.
One of the founders, Nadav Aharony, is a product manager for Android at Google.
Winners: Felipe Heusser and Jeff Warren
Peepol.tv (note: website is not live yet) is building a searchable, browsable map aggregating live streaming video from around the world. The high-profile protests of the last few years have demonstrated that the tools and infrastructure for live-streamed citizen journalism are basically there, but there is a range of applications and device platforms that split up the efforts and make them hard to discover.
Peepol.tv wants to be one central place for finding live video shot by anyone. It will be curated by topic and provide integration for sharing to social networks.
Winners: Caitria O'Neill, Alvin Lang and Morgan O'Neill
Recovers.org is a hub for communities to quickly launch Web portals for recovery efforts after a disaster. A community can immediately set up a
[place-name].recovers.org site as a destination for fundraising and coordinating relief work. The company licenses the software to communities that want to be prepared, but setting up a post-disaster site is free.
Signalnoi.se will scan social network activity in real time to find out what stories are resonating with news consumers. It doesn't just look at keywords in headlines; it will track topics and notify editors of spikes in interest. This will help newsrooms decide which stories to cover and promote, looking at chatter about their own stories as well as those of competitors.
The Tor Project is a network that allows private, secure online communication. It was originally developed as a secure channel for the U.S. Navy, but now it's used for confidentiality by journalists, law enforcement officers, activists and others.
Tor's proposal to the Knight News Challenge was to build a tool kit for journalists, which will include its secure Web browser and upload tool, other communication tools and training videos.
Watchup is an iPad app for finding news videos. It speeds up discovery of important news with a curated playlist from a variety of networks. It will develop partnerships with major U.S. news organizations, and it plans to support itself with advertising.
The Next Challenge
The second round will support projects that improve the collection, visualization, understanding and usage of the vast quantities of data we produce. Applications close on June 21, and winners will be announced at the end of September. Knight hasn't yet revealed the topic of Round Three.